Miss Smarty Pants: “I’ll take ‘Fish’ for $600, Alex.”
Alex Trebek: “This anabantoid fish is known as a Siamese fighting fish. It is vibrantly colored with flowing tails. Because they require only minimal care, they’re often found on desks in people’s offices.”
Miss Smarty Pants: (presses buzzer)
Mia: (cringes and mumbles) “Ouch.”
Miss Smarty Pants: “What is a betta?”
Alex Trebek: “Correct.”
Mia Ashlinn: “Now wait just a damn minute! I thought a betta was…”
Okay, so I wouldn’t win Jeopardy. (Don’t say it…I know what you’re thinking.) And I definitely wouldn’t get this question right on a game show or pretty much anywhere else. Why? Because I don’t think of a fish when I hear the word ‘betta.’ And I don’t think of wolves when someone mentions a ‘beta.’ No, my mind always goes to the person (or people, in my case) who help an author with his/her manuscripts before they’re released to all the eyes of the reading world.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this blog. After all, it does sound kind of random. But it really isn’t. My beta aka the Sinfully Sarcastic Righteous Pervert (Sheesh, talk about a mouthful), Tina, asked me to discuss what a beta is to me on The Pulpit. Since she is my partner in crime and I’m rather scared of her (or at least, she thinks I am), I try to do what she asks of me. That’s what friends do. Right?
Anyway, here is my take on betas…
A beta is someone who sees the person, not the author. What does that mean? Well, it means that my betas, Tina and Tara, know me personally. I’m not just Mia to them. I’m not the naughty author who writes about Kansas, unorthodox towns, or ménages. They know my real name—Anastasia Beaverhausen. Hehehe. Got to love Will and Grace. Tina and Tara know about my family and some of my friends, the ones I claim anyway. And they know what I like and what I don’t. For me, this is essential because…
A beta is someone I trust. I have to be able to trust my betas. Frankly, they have my life in their hands. Each book I write is a cherished treasure for me, and I want to know they are doing everything in their power to help me make the story into the best it can be. I have to know they can be honest with me, no matter what. They can say the book sucks, and I know for one hundred and sixty-nine percent they are telling me the truth. And more importantly…
A beta is someone who is looking out for me. When my betas have my books, I know they are always out to help me. If they tell me they don’t like something, I know they’re not saying it to be mean. They’re saying it because they want to help me. It is not criticism or an insult. It’s a friend saying, “Hey Mia…You might want to (fill in the blank).” And not a person screaming, “OMG! You suck Mia. How dare you (fill in the blank). I’m going to hunt you down and beat you with a stick.” LOL. Okay, so I might be stretching it a big. But you know how I am.
A beta is someone I can talk to. If I can’t talk to my betas then I’m screwed. I need betas to run things by or asks tons of questions. For example, poor Tara gets bombarded with questions after she reads a book. I have a list of questions (I know that is shocking) that I ask her. Everything from ‘What did you think about this character?’ to ‘Did this part of the story bother you?’ And poor Tina, I call her all the time. She helps me with everything from names of characters to plotting holes to even the plot as a whole. That’s just the beginning, too. Tina is truly my right-hand. Without her, I shudder to think of where and what I’d be.
A beta is someone who can talk me down from the ledge. Yes, I’m a neurotic writer. Every book is the be all and end all for me. And I have lots of panicky moments before release. I admit it. I’m human, and I have fears and anxiety. So I need people who I can turn to that will help me see past the end of my nose.
A beta is a life-saver. They catch tiny details that escape my notice. Sometimes I forget minor details. (Stop your laughing Tina Dowds!) Okay, I often forget details like the heroine can’t get on a bar stool when her hands are cuffed or the hero can’t do that unless he’s Stretch Armstrong. They catch these. And while they probably laugh their asses off, they remind me of those things.
A beta makes me see things I would never have seen. This is a huge one for me. Why? Because this is my story, I am incapable of stepping away from the book. I can’t separate myself from the characters, the plot, or anything like that. So if something is too much or not enough, I will not notice it. Let me tell you, this one has popped up more than once with my betas. I’ve had Tara remind me that condoms are a must. No, I’m not a proponent of condom-less sex. But I am a married woman, who has only been with her hubby—ever. Frankly, I don’t think about condoms. However, safe sex is essential in real-life and the fictional one, too. Without Tara, I might not have even thought of it. Then there’s Tina. At one time or another, she’s had to say, ‘Um, you might want to tone them down a bit. They’re (fill in the blank).’ Actually, that has happened more than once. A couple of my characters are…quite colorful while the book is in the editing process. And some of the heroes are a bit too alpha. But with a little tweaking, they aren’t nearly as over-the-top. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t alter the character—not at all. I wouldn’t do that. I just work with what I have and make sure they are seen in the best light.
And finally, a beta is someone I’m eternally grateful for. They are my eyes and my ears. They are a support system and dear friends. They are a lifeline when I need one, a stress reliever when I’m nearing a meltdown, and a whip-cracker when I’m procrastinating. Without them, I could write and release books. But, and this is a big, huge but, they help me make each book the best it can be at that time, in that situation. And for that, I will always be grateful for them. I love them both to death, and I can’t imagine going through the writing process with two better people.
How about you? What do you think a beta is? And if you’re not a beta, do you wish you were one? Why or why not? Heck, just leave a comment with whatever you want to say about betas. I’m easy…to get along with.
Have a righteously perverted day!